How to Identify an Appaloosa Horse



Look for the stereotypical “brown-on-white” spotted pattern.,
Look for the “blanket” pattern.,
Look for the aptly-named “leopard” pattern.,
Look for an inverted “snowflake” pattern.,
Look for Appaloosa roan patterns.,
Be aware of less-common coat patterns.

Appaloosas can have a wide variety of coats, but this is the type that many people are familiar with from TV and movies. The stereotypical Appaloosa horse has a white or light-colored coat covered with thick, reddish-brown spots. Often, these spots appear clustered around the front quarters of the horse and are less present on the rump, though more even spot patterns are also possible.

On an Appaloosa, the skin underneath dark spots is usually dark as well. This dark skin usually extends a little outside of the spot and under the white hair, which can give the spots a subtle “halo” effect when viewed up close.
While the reddish-brown shade for the spots is most famous, their color can range from chestnut to black., This pattern can be seen when the top of the rump (and sometimes the whole hindquarters) of the horse is completely or partially free of spots and the rest of the horse’s coat has dark spots or solid patches. The visual effect of this coat can look a little like a white blanket is laid across the horse’s rump, hence the name.

The “classic” blanket pattern (also known as a “snowcap”) has a completely bare rump — no spots. A rump that’s mostly white with some spots is technically known as a “spotted blanket” pattern.

, A leopard-coated Appaloosa horse will have spots that are generally smaller and wider-spaced than on the typical spotted Appaloosa. The horse should appear mostly white or light-colored with noticeable — but not visually overpowering — dark spots. The visual effect is similar to a Dalmatian’s coat. As with the coat patterns above, spots on a leopard coat can range from chestnut to black.

Note that, even on leopard coats, front quarters and legs of the horse may sometimes have thicker spotting or solid patches like on blanket patterns.

, While most Appaloosa coats have dark spots on a light background, this coat pattern is the opposite: it has light spots on a dark background. The horse’s “base” coat will usually range, once again, from chestnut to black. The spots will generally be small, white, and well-spaced apart, like individual snowflakes fallen on a dark surface.

, A “roan” coat is one that has a roughly even mixture of white and colored hairs. The colored hairs can be any shade — this allows for many different roan coats. An Appaloosa roan pattern usually has a lighter colored area around the forehead and jowls as well as over the back, loins, and face. Darker patches usually appear around the leg, behind the front leg joints, above the point of the hip, and above the eye. The frontal bones of the face can have both lighter and darker patches.The contrast between these light and dark patterns can be a little subtle. Roan coats don’t have the distinct borders between light and dark hair that spotted patterns do, so you may need to take a close look to identify these patterns.

, The patterns above aren’t the only kinds of coats that Appaloosa horse can have. In rarer cases, Appaloosas can have unusual coats that may even make them look like other breeds of horse. See below for more information on some of these unusual coats:Mottled: The horse’s coat is completely white. Because Appaloosas have mottled skin (skin with light and dark patches), these shades will be subtly under the light coat.
Solid: The horse’s coat is completely dark-colored. There are no spots.
Roan blanket (or “frost”): The horse has a roan pattern over its rump, back and hind quarters. In other words, there will be whitish patches in these areas that blend smoothly into the darker parts of the horse (no clear-cut spots).
Roan blanket with spots: Same as above, but with spots in the light roan areas.

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